Optimization of acoustic coupling for bottom actuated scattering based subsurface scanning probe microscopy

Paul L.M.J. van Neer (Corresponding author), B. Quesson, M. van Riel, Maarten H. van Es, K. Hatakeyama, Abbas Mohtashami, Daniele Piras, T. Duivenoorde, M. Lans, Hamed Sadeghian Marnani

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The characterization of buried nanoscale structures nondestructively is an important challenge in a number of applications, such as defect detection and metrology in the semiconductor industry. A promising technique is Subsurface Scanning Probe Microscopy (SSPM), which combines ultrasound with Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM). Initially, SSPM was used to measure the viscoelastic contrast between a subsurface feature and its surrounding medium. However, by increasing the ultrasonic frequency to >1 GHz, it has been shown that SSPM can also measure acoustic impedance based contrasts. At these frequencies, it becomes difficult to reliably couple the sound into the sample such that the AFM is able to pick up the scattered sound field. The cause is the existence of strong acoustic resonances in the sample, the transducer, and the coupling layer-the liquid layer used to couple the sound energy from the transducer into the sample-in combination with the nonlinearity of the tip-sample interaction. Thus, it is essential to control and measure the thickness of the coupling layer with nanometer accuracy. Here, we present the design of a mechanical clamp to ensure a stable acoustic coupling. Moreover, an acoustic method is presented to measure the coupling layer thickness in real-time. Stable coupling layers with thicknesses of 700 ± 2 nm were achieved over periods of 2-4 h. Measurements of the downmixed AFM signals showed stable signal intensities for >1 h. The clamp and monitoring method introduced here makes scattering based SSPM practical, robust, and reliable and enables measurement periods of hours.

Original languageEnglish
Article number073705
Number of pages10
JournalReview of Scientific Instruments
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019

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